Hill Somewhat Divided on Diversity

Republicans and Democrats on the House Communications Subcommittee were in agreement that more needed to be done to boost minority media ownership, but Republicans focused more on what they said broadcasters and cable operators were already doing to address the issue.

Related: NAB's Sutter: Education, Access Are Keys to Ownership Diversity

That came in a hearing on various bipartisan bills to promote more diversity data collection and analysis at the FCC and provide more access to capital.

Ranking member Bob Latta (R-Ohio), suggested that he might have preferred an informational hearing first before one on specific legislation. But he said both sides share the same goal and he was happy to discuss ideas on how to promote diversity, including saying it was crucial for the FCC to periodically look at the impact of its rules.

He applauded existing broadcasting and cable (MVPD) programs to promote diverse executives, saying both industries are taking "big strides" in ensuring diversity, though more work needs to be done.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), ranking member of the parent Energy & Commerce Committee and himself a former broadcaster, said he understood "the efforts the broadcast industry – and the media industry as a whole – takes to ensure diversity of ownership, viewpoint, and employment."

He pointed out he had programmed local Spanish-language programming on his radio station to serve that growing market. "I appreciate the many steps that industry has taken to not only recognize and take responsibility for the problem, but also the many programs and initiatives they have put in place to promote opportunities for women, minorities, and veterans," he said.

On the other side of the aisle, House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), said the ownership numbers are alarming and that ownership opportunities for minorities and women, while not impossible, are still very limited.

He did not mention any industry efforts, but did say it didn't help that the FCC had failed to collect some key diversity data for over 20 years.

"Women and people of color can still face discrimination when it comes to accessing capital, and, as a result, we are far more likely to see consolidation than diversity when an outlet is sold," he said.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.